April 12th, 2005
Anyone who was involved in the debates on porn in the 1980s couldn’t have missed Andrea Dworkin. A passionate speaker, writer, and campaigner, Andrea strove to show the world that pornography was both the representation and cause of abuse of women.
For many years she was at the forefront of the anti-pornography movement, leading rallies, encouraging other women to talk about sexual abuse, and challenging problems within the porn industry.
I had the chance to hear her speak on several occasions and was always struck by her passion, even if I did not necessarily agree with her ideas. Nor her insistence on not sharing a platform with any current sex workers.
By the mid-1990s, with the arrival of lad’s mags, changes in gender politics, and the Internet, some of Dworkin’s ideas were overlooked, ignored or challenged. Not everyone could agree that all pornography was bad. The women’s movement split, with some following the previously popular anti-porn path, others disliking porn but disliking the anti-porn movement more, and others admitting they liked pornography.
Regardless of these changes, or whether you agreed with Andrea’s work, there is no doubt of her commitment to empowering women, and her ability to convey difficult messages with clarity. Her scholarship, although again widely contested, was an integral part of her work. Something that is often missing in modern media-lite debates on feminism.
Andrea died recently after a battle with illness.
Whatever side you find yourself within debates on the sex industry, you cannot overlook the major role Andrea played. Even those who disliked her politics and her conclusions (I would include myself in that category) respected her dedication. She was transparent about her beliefs even if at times these were confused, extreme or elitist.
She was part of a period of history and activism. You may have been there and agreed with her, or been there and disagreed. You may not have been there at all but may still have felt her influence. Recognising her contribution is still important, even for those of us who found ourselves in opposition to her campaigning.Tweet